Tools for 3D Printing

I’ve compiled a useful set of tools that are a must for 3D printing.

Starting on the left, the typical pliers, cutters and needle nose pliers are a must. I use them to cut a fresh edge on filament and to help remove pieces of excess plastic from the print.

The yellow handled tools are a set of picks that I bought from Harbor Freight. The set actually has 4 different picks even though only 2 are shown here. I use all 4 picks to remove support plastic and rafts.

On the right are Artist painting knives. I bought these at Micheal’s. The painting knives have a nice small edge to get under the print to separate it from the print bed.

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3D Printing

My son, MJ, bought a 3D printer about 6 years ago. He used the printer up at college and for a year or so afterwards. Recently, as he was moving into a new apartment, the printer found its way back to the house. With the printer being readily available, I couldn’t resist but to start using the machine. The printer was one of the first models Qidi Tech offered to the consumer. Even though it is over 6 years old, the printer is still very competitive with current models.

There are two major types of 3D printers available to the home user at a price point that is reasonably affordable. Fused disposition modeling (FDM) is the process where thin layers of filament plastic are laid down on the build plate. That is the process this printer utilizes. The other major type of home printer is stereolithography apparatus (SLA). SLA uses a laser to cure the resin to form the print.

The printer is capable of using ABS or PLA filament. ABS is supposed to be more finicky getting the print settings figured out. In practice I have found ABS to be easier to work with.

The printer came with 0.4mm nozzles. MJ never plated around with changing the nozzles. Of course I had to swap out the nozzles just to see if we could improve the quality.

One of the first things to print are temperature towers. The towers are designed to find the best temperature for the filament you are using. There are numerous variables that influence the temperature settings. The type of filament, ABS or PLA, the manufacturer and the color of the plastic all impact the best temperature setting. As an example on how the temperature can vary, I’ve been using ABS filament from Sunlu. I have 5 spools of filament that are identical except for the color. I have founds the white ABS prints best at 210C, where as the gray ABS prints best at 215C.

In experimenting with the printer I have come to the conclusion that 3D printing is more of an art form to get good results. Once you get comfortable with the specific filament and understand the slicing program you are using, a home hobbyist can get semi-professional results.

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Barbecue Rebuild (We’re talking major surgery)

We bought our current barbecue about 5 years ago.  Within a few weeks after purchasing the grill, the propane regulator failed in the open position.  Basically the propane free flowed and the grill reached a temperature of about 700 degrees.  The knobs and control valves all melted.  Cathy called up Charbroil.  Of course they claimed we didn’t clean the grill and it was grease that burned.  Cathy did not let them off the hook.  She called in multiple times.  Finally one of the customer service reps sent us the parts to rebuild the grill.

Over the course of two or three weeks we received three different boxes of parts for the grill.  My guess is each customer service rep she contacted went and sent the parts without telling her.  We had enough parts to build the grill twice over.  So I took the parts I needed to rebuilt our new grill.  I took all the remaining parts and stored them in the shed on one of the shelves.

After 5 years of a lot of use, the grill is in very sad shape.  The grates are all rusty.  The burners and covers are crumbling.  The grease pan is coming apart.  Time to pull the plug.  Not!  It’s time to pull out all the extra parts Charbroil sent us.

With all the parts I had available, I was able to rebuild the entire grill.  New burners, covers, grates.  New lid.  New valves, knobs and propane regulator.  I had to purchase a new thermostat that attached to the top of the lid.  Cathy was able to order a new grease pan for just under $20.00.  The cabinet is really the only part I had to re-use.  With luck the grill is good to go for another 5 years.

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Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest

The annual Petersen pumpkin carving contest was again a complete success.  We had four entries this year.  Mom was supposed to be an impartial judge, so of course she declared everyone a winner. SMH.

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MJ Graduated RPI

MJ graduated from RPI!  He completed both the mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering degrees in December.  Three and a half years for 2 Bachelor degrees.

In May he walked in the graduation ceremony.  (Mom made him!!)   Actually I think he was afraid to face mom’s wrath if he didn’t go to the ceremony.

Over the years MJ has stayed close friends with his freshman year roommate, Bobbie.  It was really nice to see both of them graduate together.


The weather for graduation was a bit dreary and 1/2 way through the ceremony it started to rain.  Nothing empties out a stadium faster than cold dreary rain.

Putting aside the weather, it was nice to mark the completion of his undergrad career!  And mark the end of those awful payments to RPI every semester!




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We have a new driver in the family

Jill got her drivers license!

That night we went out to Robinson’s Ale House in Red Bank to celebrate.  MJ and Thea were able to join us.  We all piled into either Jill’s car or MJ’s.  It was weird that neither Cathy or I was driving.

We bought a VW Passat for Jill to  drive on a regular basis.  All of our cars are on the larger size, a Nissan Pathfinder and a Chevy Silverado, and it was not fair for her to have to learn on the bigger cars. But she did it.

While we were at the restaurant, Jill asked if she could drive home alone.  It would be the first time she as in a car all by herself with no one overseeing.  Cathy looked at me with her “Oh my….??” look.  Before Cathy could object, I said yes.

Jill was giddy with excitement and left the restaurant ahead of us.

As we were walking down the street, I looked up to see the Passat coming up the street.  I pointed to the car and said to everyone “Here comes Jill”.  We stood there in silence as we watched her drive off, heading home.  MJ turned to me and said “That has to be the most terrifying site”.  I said to him, “Not really, the most terrifying site was watching you drive off  for the first time. Second time around is not so bad.”  MJ clearly did not see the humor in that statement.


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Stromboli Night

Mom decided to break in her new kitchen with Stromboli night!

This was a truly unbelievable event in our household.

In the old kitchen layout only 1, maybe 2 people could work in the space at a time.  There was very limited counter space and no matter how careful, you were always bumping into the other person.  With the new kitchen layout we had 5 people all doing something!

On top of that, Mom allowed the kids to throw flour all over the granite counter-tops so we could roll out the dough for our Stromboli’s.  Each of us made up our own personalized Stromboli with whatever we wanted as a filler.

Through it all Mom kept a smile on her face.  Flour was all over the counter-tops, some of the flour and fixings spilled on to the floor, the sink was full of dishes.  Yet she smiled.


Seriously, I was starting to think the pod people replaced my wife!

At the end, the Stromboli’s came out perfect!

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One of my boxes got hacked.  Ugh.  Fortunately it was a jump server that had no data.

I have 2 servers exposed to the Internet, a jump server and a reverse proxy.  The reverse proxy provides access to the web applications that I run.  The jump server I use for SSH access into my network from remote locations.

They never got full root access to the box, they didn’t modify the firewall configs and no additional processes were spawned.  What they did do was mess up the logging facility.

After rebuilding the box from scratch I’ve made authentication to be public key only.  I’m thinking of implementing a port knocking feature so that the pot does show up on a port scan.

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The Outdoor Adventure

I’ve been meaning to get this last post up on our family trip to Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico, it just seems that life keeps getting in the way.

Jill saw the brochure on the outdoor adventure and really wanted to go.  Interestingly MJ did not want to do it.  So on Thursday, Aug 25th Jill and I had a father-daughter day.


The Outdoor Adventure consisted of zip-lines, rappelling and water slides.  To get the starting place, we had to endure a 30min trip in a 4×4 and then a 45min trip by mule to the top of the mountain.  4×4 and mule ride was an adventure in its self.  By the time we arrived at the top of the mountain we were well shaken and stirred!

The first zip line was about 1500′ long.  It took you over a canyon about 200′ in the air.  Jill was quite funny. She want to go first in the group.  The guide had another gentleman go first and then let Jill go second.  When it was Jill’s turn all of a sudden there was anxiety and trepidation.   The second zip line was about 1000′ long and took you over the tree tops.  The scenery was amazing.

At the top of the 3rd zip line we were standing on a small platform about 30′ in the air.  This zip line had a twist.  It was 75′ long and dropped at a 45 degree angle down into a valley.  The guides used the figure 8’s on our harnesses to control the descent. With the way we arrived on the platform, Jill had to go first. Amazing how fast she changed her mind and no longer wanted to go first.  But she had no choice.  The platform was to small to maneuver around.

I was the third person to go down the 3rd zip line.  When I got to the next platform I could hear Jill telling the other gentleman, “No way, I’m not going first!”.  The next challenge was a 100′ rappel next to a waterfall.  I hooked into the rappel lines.  I turned to Jill and pointed out that there was no other trails around.  The only way was to go down the cliff.  I went down, figuring that if I left her and the guides were encouraging her, she would attempt it.  And she did!

After a few more ziplines and water slides, we came to the second rappel.  It was a 110′ rappel off of a floating platform.  Amazing to see the confidence in Jill at the second rappel, now that she knew what to expect.  She had no problems at all in coming down.  About 15′ from the water the guides had us stop on the rappel lines.  They took up the slack in the safety lines and told us to place our hands on our heads.  As I put my hands on my head, I realized I’m about to be dropped into the pool of water below.  Before I could react, I was swimming in the pool.

The next zipline was a dueling race with a twist.  We were inverted and going backwards.  It was interesting to watch the ground drop away upside down.  Jill laughed the whole way.


The last zipline was a surfboard.  Jill and I had to ride the board together. The challenge was stepping onto the surfboard.  Everything moved in every direction!  Once to board started moving, the ride was actually fun!


The final challenge was a waterslide.  This was no ordinary waterslide and in fact I am positive this waterslide would not meet any safety regulations in the US.  We had to ditch our climbing harnesses and helmets.  They gave us full face hockey helmets and massive elbow pads.  We had no idea what this water slide looked like.  It was all hidden in the foliage.  The first thing was a sheer 50′ drop, then we went into a 360 degree turn, another drop and then into the water pool at the bottom.  As I went through the turn, I found out why the full face hockey helmets were necessary.  My head was slammed from side to side the whole time.  Jill lost an earring somewhere on the slide.  I was thankful that was the only issue!

What an awesome day of adventure!!

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Rhythms of the Night

Wednesday night we went to “Rhythms of the Night” dance performance. It was a very colorful, theatrical show reflecting the rich Mexican culture and folklore.

Originally all four of us were going to go.  However Cathy fell ill and couldn’t leave the room.  So MJ, Jill and I went on the adventure.

The dance performance was spectacular.  The costumes, the music, the stage were extremely professional.

After the performance, they served a very nice candle lit dinner. It would have been a perfect date for just Cathy and I. If only she didn’t fall ill. The food, wine and dessert were excellent.

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